Let me begin by letting you how I first came to meditation. About 12 years ago I started taking anxiety medication, which curtailed my (obsessive) thinking almost instantly. Although it was a relief, I did not want to remain on mediCation for the rest of my life, but, of course, I still wanted the same benefits. So I started doing some research and came upon mediTation. After reading and understanding how to do it, I started practicing. It wasn’t a quick fix like the pill, but over time, it gave me the same results. In fact, not only did it help me with my anxiety, but it also helped me with every relationship I had and my perspective on life in general. It has truly been a life enriching practice.
As with many things you get involved in, you go deeper and deeper the longer you practice. I started practicing on my own initially, then got involved with groups, did some 1-3 day retreats as well as sitting daily at home. I felt it was time to do something more serious so I signed up for the 7 day retreat.
Along with no talking and no eye contact, each day we had seven rounds of 45 minute sitting meditations and seven rounds of 45 minute walking meditations. That is intense! I did as much meditation in 7 days as I usually do in 10 weeks. Not only did I get a lot of much needed practical help with my practice, but I also gained some insight into my thoughts and conditioning.
My first aha moment came when my back started really hurting about day four. When you meditate, you don’t try to stop your thoughts, but you do practice not getting “involved” with your thoughts. You work to focus on your body (breath, body sensations or sounds). The body is present time whereas thoughts are past or future time. We want to live in the present. Well, I noticed that when I was getting lost in my thoughts, my back no longer hurt and when I brought my attention back into my body, my back was killing me again. I experimented with making a game out of it….thoughts, no pain, body focus, pain. Keep in mind, this is not how you meditate! What I realized was, thoughts (not real) are a major distraction from what is happening (real). And if I was unaware of the severe pain I was feeling because of my thoughts, then how many pleasant things was I missing out of in my life because I allow myself to be distracted with my thoughts. At first thought, it seems to make sense that, of course, we don’t want to be aware of the unpleasant, but if we can’t be aware of the unpleasant, then we can’t really be aware of the pleasant either. And the unpleasant is as much a part of life as the pleasant. Life contains it all!
The other important awakening came after talking to the teacher. I told her that I enjoyed being distracted with my thoughts and didn’t particularly want to reign them in and focus on my body. She asked me to explore how i felt about what i was thinking and how it felt in my body, which I did. I realized that my thoughts were mostly about planning things. I’m a big doer. In fact, my claim to fame is that “I get things done”. I’m quite proud of it actually. I realized that I was getting things done even during my meditation. So I initially thought that I must somehow get my self worth from this, which is exactly what I was doing during my meditation by planning.
However, the next morning at breakfast I realized the real reason why I am such a doer and planner. I am afraid that nobody is going to take care of me so I have to do everything myself, which means I need to stay on top of everything all the time. With that, the tears started flowing. They were tears of sadness and tears of joy at touching the truth.
As painful as it is, I love it when I get to know myself better. Not only does it help me to grow, but it also helps me to understand other people and know that we all have conditioning that we’re not always aware of which shapes how we think, speak and act.